Review: "Too much for this world" by Reiner Klingholz

On the one hand there is abundance, on the other hand there is a shortage: here an intoxicating consumption of resources, aging and obesity, there a lack of energy, population growth and hunger. It has long been known to everyone that the world is divided into “consumption” camps, that some consume themselves tired and others wake up tired.

Reiner Klingholz's book, on the other hand, opens up a different perspective that is not familiar to everyone. Therein lies the particular attraction of his remarks: Klingholz combines north and south problems, merges hunger with consumption, lack of energy with global warming, population growth with aging, and all of this in a crossover fashion.

Above all, he draws conclusions from this, not clumsy or moralizing, but with captivating logic. The author can draw on his decades of experience as a journalist on the one hand and as head of the Berlin Institute for Population and Development on the other. That makes the book a stimulating, but also a startling read.

Is the misery due to the population "explosion"?

Klingholz explains that there are only three, at best four decades left to get the ecological problems from climate change to species loss under control. Wouldn't it be easiest to decimate the greatest climate sinner and destroyer of nature, humans? Or at least not to increase its presence?

An argument that has long since gotten over the regulars and can be heard again and again: Ultimately, the blame for our misery is the population "explosion", which historically only began in the north of the world, then subsided there, and then much more massive in the south Globus found a continuation. If there were fewer people, if there were enough resources, global warming would be bearable, with enough of everything for everyone, so the thought.

Klingholz impressively explains that he is not wearing it. By tracing how and under what circumstances populations develop or shrink again: namely only when they have achieved a certain level of economic security. Otherwise the offspring is considered a security. The birth rate falls with education and income, especially among women, is a rule of thumb used by population scientists.

Klingholz explains how such a development works using the example of various countries such as Korea, Thailand and Bangladesh. The country has brought its population growth under control by observing four basic rules: It has invested in health, education, jobs and women's rights, according to Klingholz.

But it also means that the now more populated south of the world has to consume a little more before it can push its population curve again. It has to provide more people with more goods, energy, water, education and food than before and, ideally, enable as many as possible a life in the middle class.

Then at some point the number of children per woman will also decrease, which is currently around seven in countries like Niger and around six in Mali. For comparison: In Germany, a woman gives birth to an average of 1,4 children. Apart from the fact that the fight against poverty is an imperative of humanity, there are also solid, “population-related” reasons for bringing all countries to a higher level as quickly as possible.

A cycle of double growth

But this is exactly where the dilemma begins: those who consume more also consume more raw materials, produce more climate-damaging gases, increase their ecological footprint and thus exacerbate the global environmental crisis. Hardly having arrived in the middle class, space requirements, meat consumption and mobility increase. A life at the expense of the environment that we cannot actually afford to the present extent, although it remains limited to a small part of the world.

How will that be with eight, nine or ten billion people? When more and more of it is full and ready to consume, even though that is the key to a lower birth rate, which in turn could ease the pressure on resources?

A cycle of double growth. How can one escape from it? Klingholz thinks only through “sufficiency”. In the north, where people have already used up “their” share of global goods in abundance. Humility isn't exactly a popular recipe.

But in the last part of the book, Klingholz also provides suggestions on how moderation could look in practice. For the big stage, for politics, and for each individual. Not all of them are original and new, such as emissions trading for CO₂ or saving plastic, but all in all they show that changing directions and rethinking is possible and, above all, necessary. Anything else will almost certainly lead to a dystopian world.

Klingholz 'book is clever and rich in facts. Sometimes it takes a long time, but overall he has presented a coherent and very well-written analysis that shows one thing above all: for the situation to become easier again, it must first become more difficult.